A six-week story on 'Friday Night Lights'

Kylechandler_fridaynightlights_s2_2Eric Taylor is back in town, and not a moment too soon. The prodigal coach's return to Dillon made for one of the more satisfying Friday Night Lights experiences of the season.

The sizable dose of underdog-triumphant action in the Panthers' game didn't hurt either.

(If I give you spoilers, will you be ready?)

With Coach Taylor back at Dillon (and Kyle Chandler back at the center of the show), Friday's episode had a snap to it that had been missing a little bit. The show played out the ramifications of Eric's move to TMU fairly honestly, and judging by the teaser for next week, it's not all behind him just yet. But having Chandler back to bounce off Connie Britton -- say it with me once more: The best married couple on TV -- just made the show sing a little bit more.

And not just because Tami came home from her book club actually singing (anyone know if "Look at my hair, look at my doll, look at my scooter" is a real lyric?), and also not because Eric was, to be blunt, trying to get it on with his wife. It's because they make lines like "Love you, don't touch me, love you" and "I don't sense a true commitment from that answer" sound exactly like the coming-from-a-place-of-love grief actual couples give each other.

Eric also re-announced his presence on the field, making a statement to his feuding QB and tailback by benching both Saracen and Smash for most of the game. (You could also see how relieved he was to be back in a place where football is not quite all business, as evidenced by his let's-just-have-some-fun practice on his first day back.)

The Saracen-Smash dustup also provided one of Matt's better scenes this season, as he unloaded his emotions about Smash, his breakup with Julie and especially Eric's departure -- all betrayals, and in his mind all tied to the last one -- all at once. It's been cool to watch the character start to grow up so far this season; I don't think season one Saracen would have been comfortable enough with himself to speak up like that.

Jesseplemons2_fridaynightlights_s2_About that game: It was yet another last-minute Dillon win, with the added twist of having Lance -- oops, Landry, and I love that Coach still doesn't know his name -- the Panthers' own Ollie, provide the spark the team needed and draw the pass-interference call that set up the winning touchdown. The whole scenario, particularly Landry's halftime speech (no way such a deep-bench reserve would ever speak up like that) was shameless, and I loved nearly every second of it.

He's a hero now, but sadly for Landry that just means he's headed for a fall. Landry's dad is starting to wonder about Tyra's involvement in the rapist's death (though he doesn't suspect his son yet) and, in a misguided attempt to protect his boy, tells her to back off. Tyra then shuts Landry down in the harshest way possible, and though it was brutal, it also felt about right for that character. Emotional honesty is not the strong suit of your average 18-year-old, and I'm sure Tyra thought what she said would ultimately be kinder than the truth. It just almost never is.

(I should reiterate here that I'm still no fan of the Incident that's causing all this, but Adrianne Palicki, Jesse Plemons and now Glenn Morshower are doing a fine job with the hand they've been dealt.)

Other notes and thoughts from Friday's episode:

  • The Mexico story has been kind of a non-starter for me, so I'm glad to see it end. Still, there were a couple of nice notes in there tonight: Riggins challenging Lyla's commitment to her faith and laying out the probable consequences for Jason. I also continue to be impressed at the precision Scott Porter brings to the physical details of Jason's paralysis.
  • In keeping with his newly assertive self, Matt also lets Julie know how badly he hurt her -- "... and you never said you were sorry" (also, really liked the scene at the burger place where Matt asked Tami for advice, and she was completely befuddled as to how to respond). Julie has pretty well torn down all of her significant relationships, which I guess is sort of normal for a 16-year-old girl. I'm guessing she'll eventually come to realize that, and I'm thinking Matt, in the end, is too nice a guy not to let her back in, at least a little.
  • If you have a DVR, find the scene where Assistant Coach Mac is explaining how he got "back in the saddle" with his wife and freeze on the look Eric shoots him right before he asks Mac never to bring that up again. It's priceless.
  • Good halftime fire and brimstone from Eric, capped with the first "Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!" of the season. Now, did anyone catch what Coach said to Landry on the field after the game? I rewound three times and couldn't catch a word.
  • One thought, not exactly related to this episode but back in my mind after Eric and Tami ended the episode by dashing off to the bedroom: My girlfriend theorizes, and I agree with her, that little Grace was conceived after Eric went to get the blankets out of the truck in "Mud Bowl." The timing seems about right, doesn't it?

Pitching it over to you now: What did you think of this week's Friday Night Lights?